A superhero creator’s angst-y perils make this tale a strong start to a space saga.

THE TWIN STARS

In this YA debut, a troubled teenager gets thrust into the fictional superhero setting of her amateur storytelling efforts, where the conflicts, creatures, and characters she fashioned put her in grave danger.

Playwright Portman’s SF/fantasy novel might remind genre readers of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart franchise. Olive Joshi, 16, is on a stressful plane trip to her grandmother’s memorial ceremony in India. Grandmother was a successful writer, and Olive, in her ever present notebook, seeks to create her own fantasy realm, that of a young, seemingly invulnerable Wonder Woman type named Coseema. The superhero is really an idealized version of Olive—battling boundless malice (her own evil prince brother, Burnash, in fact) in a planetary system of rapidly degrading twin suns and rival kingdoms reduced to subsistence by solar disasters. During a crescendo of bad-weather turbulence over Alaska mirroring her emotional upset, Olive locks herself in the plane’s restroom and suddenly finds herself inside her own journal and its draft story of Coseema. Now, the novice writer is stranded on the “Musing Moon” of her narrative, where magical artists, high-tech storm troopers, amazing creatures, and Coseema really exist. One might think that as an author inside the world she created, Olive would wield immense powers and insights, but the reverse seems to be true. When she loses Coseema’s protection, the sun-scorched worlds and their tormented inhabitants are a dangerous place indeed. Olive carries the additional burden of guilt that, as the one who dreamed it all up, this universe’s predicaments and agony are her fault. The Lucasfilm-esque milieu, blending magic with exobiology, astrophysics, and a painless layering of multiculturalism, is a tantalizing one. Portman adds a layer of emotion via Olive’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, which impinges on the storyline in a more meaningful way than just checking a box in the character mental health problems column. YA readers raised on various permutations of the superhero mythos should be enthralled by the Coseema/Olive dichotomy in this metafictional series opener. Even older, jaded genre readers, griping that L. Ron Hubbard hit on this scenario first in Typewriter in the Sky (1940), could be thrown by the plotline’s chain of bang-up jolts in the concluding pages.

A superhero creator’s angst-y perils make this tale a strong start to a space saga. (author's note, author bio)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-99-592042-2

Page Count: 324

Publisher: TITAN1STUDIOS

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

THE LAKE

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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